We are now one-third of the way through the 2021 cross country season in California. It's been a slow rollout from some teams and some top athletes. Data is still hard to come by. Few teams have results on both a true 3-mile course and a 5,000-meter course. Comparisons are still at the apples, oranges, rutabaga stage. But we're giving it a shot and we'll adjust as the season progresses.
If you are happy with where we have ranked your team, watch your back because everyone else is coming for you. If you don't like where we are ranking your team, get on that line and show us just how wrong we are. Either way, get out there and compete and, by all means, enjoy!
2019 Champion: Great Oak (SS)
1. Newbury Park (SS) - Untouchable! To have four of the top 20 in the state is ridiculous and right now they have THE top four ... in California! The conversation has now shifted to this group being the best ever in national history.
2. Loyola (SS) - Not having faced any of the others listed here makes pegging down Loyola challenging. With not much separating the next four squads, we give them the early season nod, leaning toward their ability to always run their best in November.
3. Great Oak (SS) - Equipped with more weapons and depth than just about anybody else, the challenge now lies on them getting their top dogs into that next tier of talent. Tough to give them the nod over Loyola with their depth as this will be a solid battle for the runner-up plaque in the SS.
4. Bellarmine Prep (CC) - The top team in Northern California? It's a close call as well as this squad being right there for another podium spot. Solid effort at the Lowell Invite (with five in front of Clovis North's No. 2) STAT OF THE DAY - over 185 boys have raced for this program ... this month!
5. Dublin (NC) - Right there with the three right above them as they were fourth at the 2019 State Meet. Solid team effort at the De La Salle Invite two weeks ago with a 25-second scoring gap.
7. Clovis West (CS) - Solid efforts at two Southern Californian invites have provided us with more insight on the overall improvement of this squad. The best in the Central Section but they have plenty of company! Just ahead of Clovis last weekend.
8. Clovis North (CS) - They have not missed a beat since placing sixth at the 2019 State Meet. Like their western counterparts, traveling down to SoCal has provided more insight into where they currently sit.
9. Santiago (SS) - Most improved team in the division with two of the best up front. If the Sharks continue developing that depth, they should lock themselves in for their first State Meet appearance.
9. (tie) San Clemente (SS) - Still coming together and revealed more of their depth at the Dana Hills Invite last weekend. Do not be surprised to see this group close the gap on the top three in the SS.
10. Madera South (CS) - Strong showing in early season SoCal invites along with a nice tune-up on the Woodward Park course last weekend.
On the bubble: Arcadia (SS), Buchanan (CS), Clovis (CS), Crescenta Valley (SS), Dougherty Valley (NCS), Otay Ranch (SD), Santa Ana (SS), Torrey Pines (SD), Vista Murrieta (SS).
10 of the top 12 along with several others in our list will compete at the Clovis Invitational (Oct. 9th)
2019 Champion: Buchanan (CS)
1. Newbury Park (SS) - With Sam McDonnell slated as our top girl in the division, they now possess the back-end scoring depth to be one of the best in the nation. Despite not clicking with all their top five, they won the Woodbridge Invite against several top-ranked national squads.
2. Buchanan (CS) - Round one went to Newbury Park at the Woodbridge Invite but Buchanan will not give away its state title from 2019 all that easy over these next two months. Keep in mind that they were missing Caroline Mendyk at Woodbridge who projects as their third scorer.
3. Great Oak (SS) - Kelli Gaffney is projected as one of the top ten in the state while now, it will be about getting that back four to move up the ranks to close the gap. Combining all results, their fifth scorer at Woodbridge finished ahead of Torrey Pines' third.
4. Torrey Pines (SD) - Annika Salz is one of the state's best while the new-look Falcons while they project to get back to the State Meet for the first time since 2016.
5. Oak Ridge (SJ) - Not much to go on thus far with the group that placed ninth at the 2019 State Meet. Their front four would challenge for a spot on the podium but they need to develop a fifth scorer to move up the ranks here.
6. Clovis North (CS) - Miliana Perez leads the Broncos as we would not be surprised to see this group move up as the season unfolds. Their performance over Santiago at Woodbridge places them just ahead here.
7. Santiago (SS) - Along with the boys, the program is at an all-time high. With the Southern Section being up in the air, beyond the top two, it will be interesting to see who emerges from the traffic jam in the next eight weeks. The Sharks are solid and the Dana Hills Invite revealed more depth last weekend.
8. Fountain Valley (SS) - Part of the large group competing for five spots to the State Meet in the SS. Their performance at the Dana Hills Invite last weekend moved them up into the top ten with Kaho Cichon rolling to a 16:58.
9. Redondo Union (SS) - One of their deeper squads in years as they look to return to the State Meet for the first time since 2014 with Lyla Fedio leading them.
10. Saugus (SS) - With Isabella Duarte leading the way, we suspect that the squad will only improve and be a lock for another State Meet spot so do not be surprised to see them move up here in the next several weeks.
On the bubble: Beckman (SS), Chino Hills (SS), Del Norte (SD), Dougherty Valley (NCS), La Serna (SS), Rancho Cucamonga (SS), Sanger (CS), Vista Murrieta (SS).
Five of the top six, along with Saugus, will clash at the Clovis Invitational on October 9th!!! Several others on the bubble will be there as well.
2019 Champion: Newbury Park (SS) - now in D-I
1. San Luis Obispo (CS) - The Mustangs have a miniscule 18-second gap between 1 and 6 over 5K with quality throughout.
2. Newhall Hart (SS) - Only 21 seconds separate No. 1 from No. 5 over 3 miles with top three runners among the state Top 10.
3. Granada (NC) - Impressive showing at San Francisco (Lowell) Invite, beating Bellarmine (CC) with top seven packing at about 43 seconds.
4. Mira Costa (SS) - Solid group from top to bottom that showed great promise at Cool Breeze.
5. Ventura (SS) - Numbers 1 and 2 runners are among the best but a 32-second gap from 1-5 over 3 miles..
6. Vacaville (SJ) - Top three run together but the next two runners could be a lot closer.
7. Claremont (SS) - Chris Coles is clearly the No. 1 runner at 5K with a quality supporting cast.
8. Whitney (SJ) - While a 19-second gap from 1-5 is spectacular, there is no true No. 1 or 2 to get into the individual Top 10.
9. Santa Barbara (SS) - Another 6-deep program that could easily move up.
10. (tie) Anaheim Foothill (SS) - Same 28 second gap as Mt. Carmel but a tad faster top to bottom.
10. (tie) Mt. Carmel (SD) - The Sundevils are ranked No. 1 in San Diego with seven runners pushing for top five spots.
On the bubble: Frontier (CS), Grossmont (SD), Pleasanton Amador Valley (NC), Simi Valley Royal (SS), Thousand Oaks (SS).
2019 Champion: Newbury Park (SS) - now in D-I
1. Mira Costa (SS) - With Dalia Frias up front, the Mustangs drop from DI to the top of DII.
2. Anaheim Canyon (SS) - Toss-up between Nos. 2 and 3 with Canyon top five a little more tightly bunched.
3. St. Francis (SJ) - Better up front than Canyon with Cate Joaquin among the Top 10 individuals.
4. Dana Hills (SS) - Top 4 Dolphins are tough but need a No. 5 to step up to get into the top 3.
5. Poway (SD) - If Nos. 3-4-5 can improve just a little, the Titans are right there.
6. Granite Bay (SJ) - Another close race with the Grizzlies a little deeper than Claremont at this point.
9. Bakersfield Liberty (CS) - Nicole Bridges leads the way but a clear No. 5 must emerge quickly.
10. San Luis Obispo (CS) - The good news: Just a 20-second gap from 1-5. Bad news-no true front-runner.
On the bubble: Bakersfield (CS), El Toro (SS), Santa Ana Foothill (SS), Bakersfield Frontier (CS), Granada (NC), Lodi (SJS), San Ramon Valley (NC), West Ranch (SS).
2019 Champion: Campolindo (NC)
1. West Torrance (SS) - The clear class of the division at this point, and nobody appears to be particularly close.
2. Capistrano Valley (SS) - Beat Agoura in the Woodbridge sweeps race, but has lots of ground to make up on West Torrance.
3. Maria Carrillo (NC) - Team was split between two races at Woodbridge but still scored well.
4. Campolindo (NC) - Dominated the small school race at Ed Sias, then competed well against the big schools at De La Salle.
5. Torrance (SS) - Outscored a strong Agoura team at Woodbridge despite running in the rated race.
6. Agoura (SS) - A young team that could improve rapidly as the season progresses.
7. Newark Memorial (NC) - Beat several strong squads at the Farmer Invitational.
8. Brea Olinda (SS) - Looked good at Woodbridge, we will learn a lot over the next two weeks.
9. Chico (NS) - Very strong race at Josh Ruff Memorial after a shaky opening to the season.
10. Oakdale (SJ) - Impressive win on a tough Frogtown course, but lost to Chico at Josh Ruff.
On the bubble: East Union (SJ), Hilltop (SD), Mission Viejo (SS), Palos Verdes (SS), Tulare Western (CS).
2019 Champion: Campolindo (NC)
1. La Costa Canyon (SD) - Very impressive at Mt. Carmel (winning D-2 Invite), and Dana Hills (placing third behind two D-1 teams).
2. Cathedral Catholic (SD) - Eye-opening race at Woodbridge definitely put them on the map.
3. Del Oro (SJ) - Dominated at Oakmont, haven't shown their full strength at 3 miles or 5K yet (and they have two-time D-III champion Riley Chamberlain).
4. Campolindo (NC) - Good performance at De La Salle Invite, losing only to D-I Los Altos. Intense NCS D-III competition this fall!
5. Maria Carrillo (NC) - Came south for a good performance at Woodbridge, close behind Del Oro in combined team scores.
6. Brea Olinda (SS) - Led all Southern Section D-III teams at Woodbridge with a solid performance.
7. Tamalpais (NC) - Very strong opener at San Francisco Invitational, but had an off day (short-handed) at De La Salle Invite.
8. Torrance (SS) - Won at Rosemead, solid race at Woodbridge.
9. Palos Verdes (SS) - Strong opener at Cool Breeze, hasn't looked quite as strong since then.
10. Corona Del Mar (SS) - Currently at the front of a cluster of Southern Section teams that are essentially equal, at least so far.
On the bubble: Oak Park (SS), South Torrance (SS).
2019 Champion: Foothill Technology (SS)
2. Orange Lutheran (SS) - Impressive 38.80 1-5 gap for 3 miles.
3. Hacienda Heights Wilson (SS) - Senior Luis Gudiel, who ran No. 3 at 2019 States, has 75-second gap on the rest of the crew.
5. Sage Creek (SD) - Bryce Gilmore is No. 2 returner from 2019 State Meet, and team's 2-5 is separated by just 25.80 for 3-miles.
6. Archie Williams (NC) - A top-3 finisher in the last three State Meets competing under former name (Sir Francis Drake).
7. Menlo (CC) - Junior Justin Pretre ran No. 3 at 2019 State Meet.
8. Big Bear (SS) - Max Sannes is among CA's best and 2-5 currently at 58-second gap for 3-mile.
10. Foothill Tech (SS) - D-IV champions in 2019 lost all five scorers to graduation and legendary coach Ken Reeves to retirement but has been a top-five finisher since 2015.
On the bubble - Albany (NC), El Segundo (SS), Lowell (SF), Oaks Christian (SS), Piedmont (NC).
2019 Champion: Sage Creek (SD)
1. JSerra (SS) - Frosh Brynn Garcia leads a talented, young lineup currently packing at 72 seconds over 3 miles.
2. Sage Creek (SD) - Senior Stormy Wallace, who has been on the past two D-IV title teams, is now the leader looking for a three-peat.
4. Oaks Christian (SS) - Payton Godsey is the star with solid 2-4 support. Pulling up a No. 5 will be key.
6. Laguna Beach (SS) - Melanie Falkowski is clear No. 1 and 2-7 is gapped within 50 seconds.
7. Menlo (CC) - Runners-up in 2019, graduated all but Sophia Gallo; solid five for Coach Chen to build upon.
On the bubble - Covina (SS), El Segundo (SS), Miramonte (NC), Piedmont (NC), Sacred Heart Prep (CC).
2019 Champion: Viewpoint (SS)
1. Lick-Wilmerding (NC) - Led by one of the favorites to win the individual title, Alex Mader.
2. Santa Fe Christian (SD) - Aiming for top spot in San Diego Section over tough Francis Parker team.
3. Francis Parker (SD) - Finished 3rd in 2019 led by individual co-favorite Kenan Pala.
4. Nueva (CC) - Strong trio up front looking for their first boys' section title.
5. Providence (SS) - Currently looks like the best team out of the Southern Section.
6. St. Margaret's (SS) - Finished 2nd in 2019 and will be a podium threat at the State Meet.
7. Crystal Springs Uplands (CC) - The youngest varsity team in the state with four frosh in top 7.
8. University (NC) - Historically one of the top programs in the state with 4th place finish in 2019.
9. Urban (NC) - Get to test themselves often versus one of the best Division V leagues in state (BCL West).
10. Viewpoint (SS) - Defending state champions from 2019 returns only senior Henry Diden, who ran No. 3 at State as a soph.
2019 Champion: Lick Wilmerding (NC)
1. Lick-Wilmerding (NC) - Defending state champions with strong duo at the front.
2. University (NC) - L-W's league, section, and state rival for many years.
3. St. Margaret's (SS) - Led by the top returning individual runner in 2019, Liesel Blau.
4. Castilleja (CC) - Might have the best top four runners in the division. Need to bolster 5th.
5. Nueva (CC) - Will keep Castilleja honest at CCS and then looking for top 5 finish at state.
6. Linfield Christian (SS) - Ryley Burns is the top runner for the Lions.
7. Cate (SS) - Finished in 11th place in 2019 and looking for top 10 finish this year.
8. Viewpoint (SS) - JiaLian Mackey appears to be the individual favorite at this point in Division V.
9. College Prep (NC) - Finished just in front of SJND at BCL East Pre-Season Meet.
10. St. Joseph Notre Dame (NC) - Another strong team in this division looking for another top 10 finish.
Rankings compiled by Steve Brand, Albert Caruana, Mark Gardner, Jeff George, and Jeffrey Parenti
Photos by DeAnna Turner, Daniel Tyree, Raymond Tran, Patrick Corsinita, Eric Yabu, Jeffrey Parenti, and Albert Caruana.